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Blinken reaffirms US commitment to defend Philippines

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the United States’ unwavering commitment to protect its longtime ally, the Philippines, against potential armed aggression in the South China Sea. Blinken’s visit to Manila, his second since President Ferdinand Marcos assumed office in 2022, is part of a brief Asia tour aimed at bolstering US support for regional partners in the face of China’s assertiveness.

Amid China’s expansive claims over the South China Sea, disregarding rival assertions from various Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines, and an international ruling debunking its claims, Blinken’s reassurance of defense comes at a critical juncture. Recent incidents involving Philippine and Chinese vessels near disputed reefs, including collisions, have heightened tensions in the region.

During a joint press conference with Philippine Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo, Blinken emphasized the strategic importance of the South China Sea for the Philippines’ security and economy, as well as for regional and global interests. He underscored the US commitment to uphold its defense obligations under the mutual defense treaty with the Philippines.

Following Blinken’s statements, China swiftly responded, asserting that the US lacks the authority to intervene in South China Sea matters. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman emphasized that maritime disputes should be resolved directly between China and the Philippines, without external interference.

Blinken’s visit anticipates a trilateral summit in Washington next month involving US President Joe Biden, President Marcos, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The White House Press Secretary highlighted the leaders’ shared objective of promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region, underscoring the importance of regional cooperation and security in the face of growing geopolitical challenges.

As Blinken’s diplomatic engagements continue, his meeting with President Marcos later in the day is expected to further solidify the strategic partnership between the United States and the Philippines, emphasizing mutual defense interests and regional stability.

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